Trial courts must follow the rules, too.

This was an appeal out of Jefferson County.  The gist of the underlying facts and history leading up to this appeal is this: this was a local code enforcement case that got out of control and resulted in contempt proceedings for both Clifford Null and his attorney, Kurt D. Mitchell. Originally, Null had been cited by way of two private … Read More

Sufficiency of Evidence and Probable Cause

Comm. v. Gorman, 2018 PA Super 73 (Mar. 28, 2018) This was an appeal out of Allegheny County.  Gorman proceeded to a bench trial on three charges: theft by unlawful taking, receiving stolen property, and misapplication of entrusted property.  The long-and-short of the evidence behind these charges was that Gorman, a long-time VFW member who operated the honor guard out … Read More

Missteps, Translators, and Exigencies

Comm. v. Giles, 2018 PA Super 63 (Mar. 20, 2018) This was an appeal out of Allegheny County.  Giles had been convicted by a jury of several sex offenses, prime among them being rape of a child.  The child testified at trial about her sexual interactions with Giles, and she was cross-examined on several points.   To rehabilitate the child’s … Read More

A complex issue: Credit for time served.

In the past four days, the Pennsylvania Superior Court has issued two opinions that deal with the issue of how to award credit for time spent incarcerated before sentencing or resentencing. The one appeal is out of Erie County, and it concerns the issue of how time spent in custody should be allocated to either a parole detainer or new … Read More

The Important Role of Defense Counsel

This appeal was an appeal out of Allegheny County.  The issue in this case revolved around disparaging remarks made against defense counsel in a victim’s letter, which was sent to the sentencing judge for purposes of a resentencing hearing.  The specific remark that was at issue was this: Furthermore, [defense counsel] is lining his pockets with taxpayer dollars defending a … Read More

Authenticating social media evidence

This appeal was a Commonwealth appeal out of Erie County.  The opinion is a lengthy one, and it deals with an evidentiary issue of authentication of evidence.  Specifically, the question at issue was one of first impression: what proof is necessary to authenticate social media evidence, such as Facebook postings and communications? To get to the point, the Superior Court … Read More

Comm. v. Fitzpatrick, 2018 PA Super 55 (Mar. 14, 2018)

This appeal was an appeal out of Philadelphia.  On August 14, 2015, a judgment of sentence had been entered against Fitzpatrick after a jury had convicted him of first-degree murder and third-degree murder of an unborn child.  Fitzpatrick had provided two signed statements to police admitting that he had shot Tiffany Gillespie in the head. Before trial, Fitzpatrick challenged his … Read More

It’s hard to get post-conviction relief.

Appeals from the denial of post-conviction relief (or PCRA petitions) consume a majority of the Superior Court’s docket.  The disposition of the majority of these appeals generally are unfavorable to the appellant and occur by way of an unpublished memorandum opinion, which has no precedential value. Over the course of the past couple of days, from March 14 to  March … Read More

False ID Law Requirements

This appeal was heard en banc and arose out of Philadelphia.  The appeal focuses on the interpretation of the law defining “false identification to law enforcement,” 18 Pa.C.S. § 4914.  That law reads as follows: A person commits an offense if he furnishes law enforcement with false information about his identity after being informed by a law enforcement officer who … Read More

The Benefit of Deferring Probation Revocation Hearings

This was an appeal out of Adams County. On appeal, Moriarty asserted that his attorney rendered ineffective assistance because of the advice he provided pertaining to a probation-revocation hearing.  These are the facts. In 2014, Moriarty had previously pled to certain crimes for which he was sentenced to 1-to-23 months less a day (a county sentence), plus 12 months probation.  … Read More